Pho’nomenal Soup

It’s been warm in North Carolina for several weeks, but recently the trees, flowers, and fauna have agreed to come alive and welcome Spring. The collective attitude of this area, the state, probably most of the country is lightened and optimistic, and everything seems fun and exciting. It’s almost hard to sit at home when you see the bright blue skies out of your window and know full well that the sun is warm and the breeze is light and soothing. I’m endlessly thankful that blending into life in Durham has been fluid and inspiring. It’s not without effort that I’ve made this community home, but the effort is easy to succumb when the opportunities are so prevalent. Durham shares features of Chicago that I loved, the primary being that it becomes so vibrant and positive in the warm weather. Everywhere it seems people are out, active, and socializing. Every restaurant and brewery offers the option to dine in the open air, and the myriad trails winding through this area are overflowing with people. It’s so fun to be happy and warm.

The above paragraph does not segue appropriately into the recipe at all. Rather, I’m blogging because I think I’ve exhausted my outdoor experiences for the weekend, and since the sun is setting, I find myself anxious for something new to do besides read quietly or numb to TV. So I’ll use this blog post as a way to believe I’m talking to someone since my dogs insist on napping and not engaging with me at all.

I want to call this recipe pho, because it is, I presume. However, I hesitate to comment on a culinary genre so profoundly outside of my personal experience and, in doing so, cheapen the years of creativity and influence that eventually inspired what is now appreciated as pho. It seems that in becoming a trendy- or at least well-known- food, there are of course a variety of manipulations that may stray egregiously from the original source. But I’ll attempt to throw my recipe into the forum, not to promise authenticity, but to encourage expansion of this beautiful and flavorful dish into even the most benign kitchens. This is truly one of the most straightforward meals I’ve made, with such outrageously delicious results. The ratio of effort to pay-off is trending towards infinity. So I call this soup, with a heavily obvious pun- pho’nomenal-  because it is phenomenal and it, for lack of a better descriptor, is pho!

Vegetarian Pho

Serves 2

(Inspired by this recipe)

Broth

  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 1 large knob of ginger, cut in half
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix-ins

  • 1/2 block tofu, diced into 0.5 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp. canola, sunflower, safflower, or other high-heat oil
  • 2 bunches bok choy
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 3-5 oz enoki (or other interesting) mushrooms
  • 3 oz rice noodles, prepared according to package directions

Sriracha and soy sauce to serve

To prepare the broth, halve the onion and ginger and place in the broiler. Broil until a dark golden color but not quite burnt. Flip and broil the opposite side. Watch carefully- this takes 2-3 minutes per side.

In a large stock pot, add the broiled onion and ginger, lemongrass, and whole spices. (Buyer’s note: I purchased all of these spices from the bulk bin at whole foods for approximately 25 cents… some were so light they were free! So don’t be discouraged by a long list of potentially expenses cabinet-dwellers… just buy what you need!). Add 6 cups of water to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 90 minutes. I actually prepared the broth entirely ahead of time, cooled it, and stored prior to reheating when I was ready with the mix-ins the following night. But, alternately, prepare mix-ins while the broth is simmering. Once an appropriate amount of time has elapsed, strain the broth. It should be a deep, rich brown color. If needed, add a bit more salt.

Prepare the tofu by cubing, tossing with oil, and placing in the broiler for 5 minutes. Toss and continue to broil for 5-7 minutes longer, until lightly browned and crisped on the edges. While the tofu is cooking, prepare the rice noodles. Most packages ask for them to be added to boiling water then sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add the bok choy, mushrooms, and sliced jalapenos to the bowls. Once the tofu is done, add that as well. Top with the rice noodles.

To serve this in a pretty way, present the bowls with mix-ins then pour the steaming broth over the top. (My photos look a little low on broth, and that’s because I split it into 3 servings so I could get more food out of it [still living cheap], but this would be more substantial/ characteristic of massive pho bowls just split into 2 servings). Top with as much sriracha as you dare, as well as a splash of soy sauce. Serve with large spoon and chopsticks!

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Pineapple Teriyaki Shrimp

This is my 52nd post for this blog. I didn’t realize the 50th was the 50th, and also missed noting the 51st, so here: I’m calling out my 52nd. My posting frequency has slowed some since the beginning, in part due to an exhausted schedule, in part due to more nights out on warm evenings. I have all of these things I wish to spotlight, and I keep pushing back recipes thinking they’ll be more fitting for another time. But I intend to keep this going, even if slowly, in expectation that with time I blog all I have to share. I am kind of curious if eventually I’ll run out of ideas, like maybe the 203rd post, and have to stop. Or does taste and experience change enough to keep a continuous fodder for this small, insignificant space? Maybe it’s more likely I run out of steam before I run out of ideas. Who’s to say.

I’m also very nearly approaching the time at which I can no longer say “From a Chicago Kitchen,” which makes me sad. I doubt I’ll change it; I’ll just take the route most Suburbanites take, who say they’re Chicagoans in a greater-Chicago perspective. I hope whatever kitchen I have next has good lighting.

Anyways, this recipe is a great one, I think, for the beginnings of summer. I probably prepared it a few weeks ago now, so I’d expect pineapples would be even more ripe and delicious. I admit I didn’t make my own Teriyaki sauce- I’ve never had a very comprehensive Asian pantry to make things from scratch on a whim- but I certainly didn’t just toss the shrimp with something out of a bottle. There were a few bottles involved! I also ran out of Sriracha (the most terrible of crimes), but I’m including it in the recipe because of course it should be included.

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Pineapple Teriyaki Shrimp

Serves 4

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pineapple, prepared and chopped into 1 inch. cubes (about half of the fruit needed)

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 cup brown rice + 2 1/4 cups water

1/2 + 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce, divided

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp. Sriracha

1 tbsp. corn starch

1 tbsp. coconut oil

Dash red chili flake

Prepare the shrimp and toss with 1/2 cup pineapple cubes and 1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce. Allow to marinade for 15-20 minutes.

Cook the brown rice according to package directions, usually 1 cup of brown rice to 2 1/4 cups water, cooked for about 30 minutes. Fluff and set aside.

Using a blender, mix together about 1/2 cup of pineapple cubes, 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, corn starch, and Sriracha. Blend until the pineapple is completely pureed into the mixture. Set aside.

In a large wok or non-stick skillet, melt coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the marinated shrimp (pineapple included), red bell pepper, and an additional 1 cup of chopped pineapple.  Cook the shrimp for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they are opaque. Once the shrimp is cooked and pineapple warm, pour the Teriyaki pineapple sauce over the shrimp. Stir frequently until the sauce coats the shrimp and thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve rice and pineapple Teriyaki shrimp alongside each other. Be cautious with seasoning the rice- there is enough salt in the sauce without any additional salt added. Top with additional Sriracha as desired (you should always desire more Sriracha) and enjoy!